Wrap Your Soul in Truth

Under-Armor for Spiritual War

Given enough time, men and women of principle stand out. After waves of social pressure and the mounting cares of this life, such people are left standing, long after others around them have compromised and toppled.

I’m referring to Christians who don’t play favorites and aren’t partisans of this age. They don’t bend the truth or sweep respectable sins under the rug. Rather, they call Jesus “Lord,” and standing with two feet on his soil, they call “spade” and “evil” to all sides of error and unbelief. Such men and women refuse to cut moral corners, or presume that strategic wrongs can make others right. They shun small compromises and may not stand out at first. But give it time, and their truth and good will be conspicuous (1 Timothy 5:25).

When justice is at stake, such people are not partial to the rich, or the poor. They don’t pick a favorite group, or preferred person, and twist truth and righteousness to fit their darling. Bearing the name of their God, and the Messiah he sent, they judge with impartiality and decide with equity.

And in the spiritual conflict in which we’re engaged, they “stand against the [plural] schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) that come from every side. They remember that our warfare is spiritual, not “against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12) — and that this war cannot be fought with the weapons of the world.

If such men and women seem to be in short supply in some circles, we might ask, Where do such people come from?

God’s Armor and Ours

“God shows no partiality” is a striking refrain across Scripture, and particularly in the New Testament (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25). The implication for God’s people is plain and explicit: do nothing from partiality (1 Timothy 5:21). This is James’s memorable teaching about rich and poor who come to worship: “show no partiality” (James 2:1). “If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).

“The Christian who wraps his soul in the objective truth of Scripture shapes his subjective heart for the wiles of war.”

But all this truth and righteousness, precious as it is, remains downstream when we come to “the whole armor of God” — and what Paul lists first. Before we start reaching for God’s armor, we should know whose it is, and who wore it first.

Now, some of Scripture’s most magnificent passages can be lost on us through over-familiarity. Such chapters as Isaiah 53 and 1 Corinthians 13 are deservedly famous — and in that due emphasis and celebration, many of us need to move past our dulling acquaintance with them and see them with fresh eyes, and amazement.

The “armor of God” in Ephesians 6 is one of these stunning flourishes. This is Paul at his best, with dazzling Christian creativity, if we might call it that. In one powerfully rhetorical swath, he both pulls together Old Testament references to armor and presses them into Christian use (perhaps even against a Roman backdrop). This is instructive of the range of usages the apostles can make of the Hebrew Scriptures, not only as simple promise-fulfillment, but also illusions and types and patterns and artistic syntheses crafted to serve the holy designs of the authors and needs of their readers. Here the apostle is both poet and pastor.

Iain Duguid makes a compelling case that

each of the pieces of armor has a rich background in the Old Testament, where they describe God’s armor — the armor that God himself dons to rescue his people. The Old Testament, not the Roman legionary, provided Paul with his inspiration — and if we miss this background, we may misinterpret and misapply the various pieces of the armor.

So, we begin with the first — “the belt of truth,” which strictly speaking isn’t armor, defensive or offensive, but pre-armor or under-armor. Let’s see it first in its original context, and what it shows us of our Divine Warrior, and then how we, very practically, might “wear the belt” today as Christians in a world of half-truths.

Messiah Wrapped in Righteousness

Isaiah 11 tells of the coming “shoot from the stump of Jesse,” David’s father. The mention of Jesse recalls the humble origins of Israel’s greatest king. The wide trunk that is God’s first-covenant people may be felled by an invading army, but God will see to it that a stump will remain — and in time a new shoot of life will spring from David’s line.

The prophet anticipates that this coming Messiah, with the Spirit of God resting on him, will delight in the fear of God — and so will be no partisan king. He will not be deceived by appearances and personal preferences, “but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isaiah 11:3–4). Strikingly, he will not then take up the physical sword to enforce his will but exact justice with the word of his power: “he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4).

Seven centuries later, when the apostle writes so memorably to Christians about putting on “the whole armor,” he draws first on Isaiah 11:5:

Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness (truth) the belt of his loins.

Gracious and merciful as will be this Messiah to rescue his people, he will not act unjustly. He will not take bribes or underwrite half-truths. He will not treat wrong as right, or sweep injustice under the rug. Delighting to reverence his divine Father and cosmic justice, he will be a king who delights in right, does right, and is known for it. Even his opponents will have to admit, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God” (Luke 20:21).

So here, looking to the righteous actions of Jesus, Paul notes our first step in dressing for spiritual battle.

Prepare Your Soul with Truth

Before reaching for breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, or sword, first comes the under-armor. There’s technically no “belt” here in Ephesians 6:14. This first step of preparation is literally, “having girded up your loins in truth” (perizōsamenoi tēn osphun humōn en alētheia). We might say wrap your waist in truth.

In the ancient world, “girding up your loins” meant wrapping your waist with the excess fabric of a long robe as “preparation for vigorous activity” (O’Brien, Ephesians, 473). Drawing up the dangling garment, and securing it at the waist, enabled running, free movement, and unhindered combat. With this foundational fashion in place, warriors then could secure their armor and go into battle.

For spiritual war, the Christian first is to wrap his loins in truth. Now, as “the belt,” this is not yet truth on the offensive (that’s the sword of the Spirit), but this is God’s truth applied to oneself, to the inner man, the soul, the “inward being” or “secret heart” (Psalm 51:6). The Christian who wraps his soul in the objective truth of Scripture shapes his subjective heart for the wiles of war. He takes the divine word deep into his human center, for transformation and joy. He not only searches the Scriptures, but lets the Scriptures search him. He ingests God’s truth both to feed and to condition his soul, subjectively using the objective truth to shape his pliable affections.

Slowly, one day at a time, over months and years, this wrapping makes him a vastly different person, far better equipped to both identify truth and embody it.

Wrap Yourself in His Word

Wrapping ourselves in truth applies to more than personal Bible intake, but not less. Those best prepared for spiritual war are those who not only dip into the word briefly but saturate their lives with it. They wrap their souls in God’s truth through various habits and patterns, personally and corporately — through reading and rereading and study and meditation and memorization and discussion. They click on content that strengthens their bearings and their delight in truth, rather than error.

We all wrap our souls in something. Is it truth or error? And as we practice choosing truth daily, reading truth, clicking truth, meditating on truth, talking truth, then we become ready to discern truth from error, counterfeits, and half-truths.

“Those best prepared for spiritual war are those who not only dip into the word briefly but saturate their lives with it.”

And having wrapped our souls in truth, we become the kind of people who bring truth with us wherever we go. We not only speak truth but embody it, and even more, speak the truth of the gospel into places and hearts of unbelief. We are truth-tellers in our jobs, on our taxes, when we fill out insurance claims, when we serve as jurors, when we find a financial error in our favor, and when we hear someone speak a half-truth about someone else. Like Jesus, we will become agents of truth wherever we go: when we walk into a room, or stand up at a school-board meeting, or sit in a conference room, or engage in conversation.

Wrapped in truth, we’ll be the kind of people who say, in every crisis, Let truth hold sway. Let the unvarnished truth be discovered and known. Truth will not undermine the cause of our God and Christ, who is the Truth. Rather, the cause of truth — openhanded, not angling, full exposure, light into darkness — is an effect downstream of our knowing and enjoying the word of truth, the gospel, about the one who is Truth himself.

And so we call out spades and evil, and call on Jesus as Lord. We refuse to cut moral corners, cater to lies, or presume that some wrongs can make others right. First, we wrap ourselves daily in God’s truth. Then, we reach for the armor, and over time we grow increasingly bright and shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father, and in this age besides.